An Alzheimer’s diagnosis often relies on signs of memory problems. However, these issues usually do not appear until years after the disease has taken hold. A new smartphone game is using spatial navigation to detect Alzheimer’s before it is too late.
Another person develops Alzheimer’s diseas eevery 3 seconds, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International. The number of people living with this most common form of dementia currently stands at around 50 million. By 2050, experts expect this figure to have tripled.
The last “significant breakthrough” in Alzheimer’s research happened 4 decades ago, states the latest World Alzheimer’s Report. However, a recently developed smartphone game may alter that statistic.
New research suggests that transcranial magnetic stimulation could reverse age-related memory loss. In fact, the technique restored the memory of senior participants to the level of young adults.
It is a known fact that a person’s memory tends to decline with age. Between 15 and 20 percent of people over the age of 65 years have mild cognitive impairment (MCI) — a condition that is no cause for concern on its own but that raises the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Misplacing things once in a while or having trouble finding one’s words can be a natural partof the aging process. However, researchers may now have found a way to reverse this form of age-related memory loss.
While memory loss is an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, its presence doesn’t mean a person will develop dementia. A new study at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has found a clinically useful way to predict who won’t develop Alzheimer’s disease, based on patients’ awareness of their memory problems.
People who were unaware of their memory loss, a condition called anosognosia, were more likely to progress to Alzheimer’s disease, according to the study, published today in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. Those who were aware of memory problems were unlikely to develop dementia.
“If patients complain of memory problems, but their partner or caregiver isn’t overly concerned, it’s likely that the memory loss is due to other factors, possibly depression or anxiety,” says lead author Dr. Philip Gerretsen, Clinician Scientist in CAMH’s Geriatric Division and Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute. “They can be reassured that they are unlikely to develop dementia, and the other causes of memory loss should be addressed.”
The pathologies (damage) in the brain that stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions cause in older adults only partially explain the memory loss, reduced reasoning ability and other cognitive impairments that result from these conditions. Little is known about why the effects of brain pathology vary between people who develop it.
Now researchers have discovered two genes, known as UNC5C and ENC1, that are associated with aging individuals having better memory and brain function than would be expected, given the amount of pathologies that accumulated in their brains. They reported their findings in an article published in the journal PLOS Medicine on April 24.
“Most of the cognitive loss that we experience in older age remains unexplained. Certain individuals are very resistant to the pathologies of the aging brain, while others may be particularly vulnerable,” says study senior investigator David Bennett, MD, who directs the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
Relying on clinical symptoms of memory loss to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease may miss other forms of dementia caused by Alzheimer’s that don’t initially affect memory, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.
“These individuals are often overlooked in clinical trial designs and are missing out on opportunities to participate in clinical trials to treat Alzheimer’s,” said first study author Emily Rogalski, associate professor at Northwestern’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
There is more than one kind of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s can cause language problems, disrupt an individual’s behavior, personality and judgment or even affect someone’s concept of where objects are in space.
An estimated 5.3 million people in the U.S. suffer from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) — the most common form of dementia — and roughly 473,000 people will develop the disease in 2015. There are currently five medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat AD. However, these drugs only help mask the symptoms and do not stop the disease from progressing or treat the underlying disease. In a new study presented at the 14th International Conference on Endothelin: Physiology, Pathophysiology and Therapeutics, researchers used IRL-1620, a chemical that binds to endothelin B receptors, to treat AD in rats.
Studies have shown that endothelin B receptors are important in brain development. “We used the novel approach of stimulating the endothelin B receptors by intravenous injection of IRL-1620 to prevent and repair the damage to the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease,” said study co-author Seema Briyal, PhD.
Rats with AD showed impaired learning and memory and increased oxidative stress. “We found that treatment with IRL-1620 reversed these effects. Intravenous injection with the drug improved memory deficit by 50 to 60 percent and reduced oxidative stress by 45 to 50 percent,” Briyal explained. “We also found that treatment with IRL-1620 enhanced certain recovery processes within the AD-damaged brain, resulting in more new blood vessels and neuronal cells. This indicates reparative processes occurring in the damaged brain.”
A new University of Iowa study further supports an inescapable message: caregivers have a profound influence — good or bad — on the emotional state of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients may not remember a recent visit by a loved one or having been neglected by staff at a nursing home, but those actions can have a lasting impact on how they feel.
The findings of this study are published in the September 2014 issue of the journal Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology.
UI researchers showed individuals with Alzheimer’s disease clips of sad and happy movies. The patients experienced sustained states of sadness and happiness despite not being able to remember the movies.
People with blood type AB may be more likely to develop memory loss in later years than people with other blood types, according to a study published in the September 10, 2014, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
AB is the least common blood type, found in about 4 percent of the U.S. population. The study found that people with AB blood were 82 percent more likely to develop the thinking and memory problems that can lead to dementia than people with other blood types. Previous studies have shown that people with type O blood have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, factors that can increase the risk of memory loss and dementia.
The study was part of a larger study (the REasons for Geographic And Racial Differences in Stroke, or REGARDS Study) of more than 30,000 people followed for an average of 3.4 years. In those who had no memory or thinking problems at the beginning, the study identified 495 participants who developed thinking and memory problems, or cognitive impairment, during the study. They were compared to 587 people with no cognitive problems.
New research from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden shows that the final stage of the normal inflammatory process may be disrupted in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. A study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia shows that levels in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid of the molecules necessary for tissue recovery through the clearance of harmful inflammatory substances are lower than normal in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The study also showed association between the lower levels of these molecules with impaired memory function.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, eventually leading to neuronal death associated with an increasing degree of memory impairment. As with other neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s is characterised by an inflammatory process in the brain. Prolonged inflammation with the release of inflammatory and toxic substances can cause further damage and neuronal death.
A few months ago I mentioned to a work associate that a friend and I had met as board members of the Alzheimer’s Association. “Wow,” he said, with a chuckle, “I hope that doesn’t mean you’ll both be getting Alzheimer’s.”
I tried to brush the comment aside, but couldn’t. And then it hit me: In addition to being insensitive (had he forgotten my mom died of Alzheimer’s six years ago?), this person was clueless. And he’s not alone. Unless you’ve seen it with your own eyes and felt it in your own heart — the long, depressing, dizzying decay of a loved one due to Alzheimer’s disease — you simply don’t know.
Even knowing what I know, I’ll admit to having joked at times when I couldn’t find my sunglasses (and they were on my head) or I couldn’t locate my keys (and for some reason they turned up in the bathroom): “I must be getting Alzheimer’s!”
But no more. Because as long as we continue to associate this awful disease with simple forgetfulness and the unavoidable slowing down of old age, we’re kidding ourselves into believing that Alzheimer’s is something we don’t have to think about — something we can even joke about.
It’s not cancer, after all. And people don’t drop dead from Alzheimer’s as they do from heart disease.